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What is the Chase 5/24 Rule?
Chase has unofficially implemented a 5/24 rule. For those of who aren’t familiar with this rule it means Chase will more than likely deny your credit application if you’ve had more than 5 card inquires in the last 24 months. From any bank. NOT just Chase. ANY.BANK. That’s kinda ridiculous if you ask me, and I think that this 5/24 rule provides a HUGE opportunity for Amex…if they want to capitalize.
A little History:
Chase put out this press release in 2009. They were releasing the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card
As it says in the release they were targeting the top 15% of U.S. households by income. This card was also released in the wake of the 2008/2009 financial collapse. It’s no mystery that they were looking to attract the top tier debtors to their brand and were probably willing to lose money to entice current or future Amex cardholders. There was a great desire to attract consumers who were most likely to pay off their debts and not default: A problem that was at contagion levels in the wake of the financial crisis. So Chase looked to the market and directly attacked the segment dominated by American Express. In fact, there was not another true competitor to Membership Rewards and Chase was willing to wage war on the market Amex tightly gripped. Or so Amex thought.
When the war started Amex had the upper hand
Amex meant status: Possessing an American Express meant in some way that you had made it…Or, at least, that was the byzantine mentality that existed at Amex corporate: People revered Amex so much; why would they ever remove a status symbol from their wallet? It’s old money vs the nouveau riche. Remember, there was once a stated 100k income requirement for the Platinum card so the sheer fact that you held it in your wallet meant you were making a salary that qualified you for that card. Even if you didn’t have a Platinum card, the mere possession of an American Express meant that you had great credit.
American Express started out as a charge card company…meaning that you had to pay your balance in full. They weren’t going to give a card to just anyone; you needed to pay off the balance every month. Even now they have no limit on the amount of charge cards you can collect, instead they limit only the number of credit cards you can have. The market valued the potential of points, flexibility of payment, lower fees, etc much more than it did the laurels of American Express prestige.
Chase took aim.
Chase took a bet that people wanted choice and if they could have an Ultimate Rewards mall, 7% dividend on points, and good transfer partners that the top 15% income earning consumers would consider their card. When the Sapphire Preferred first debuted you could transfer points to British Airways, Continental, Marriott and IHG. Those 4 still remain although Continental is now United, but they’ve added to that list over the years: Korean Air Skypass, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, , Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Hyatt Gold Passport, and Ritz. The list is good, but I wouldn’t say it has a competitive advantage to American Express.
|American Express Membership Rewards||Chase Ultimate Rewards|
|Air Canada||AirFrance ( FlyingBlue)|
|British Airways ( 1.25:1)||Southwest|
|Air France: Flying Blue|
|Virgin America (2:1)|
Looking at this table it’s clear to see that American Express still has a huge advantage when it comes to quantity of partners. Whether one list is better than the other is subjective and I’d recommend that you keep a balance in both. The point I’m making is that American Express has a lot of leverage to capitalize consumer interest.
Chase lands a huge blow as Amex adds considerably less cardholders than Visa
Now this chart doesn’t define the complexion of these cards, but the Chase Sapphire Preferred/ Bold/ Ink were all introduced in 2009 and the number of Visa cardholders skyrocket starting in 2010. It’s worth noting that the initial issuance of Bold and Ink were Mastercard, which may account for some of the increase in MC numbers post 2010, but their conversion to Visa probably accelerated the Visa market share shown in the 2014 column of the chart. Sapphire/Sapphire Preferred took aim at the old green rewards, gold, maybe even platinum while Bold/Ink aimed at the Open for Amex small business cards.
|Amex (in millions)||23||34||38|
|MC ( in millions)||86||75||83|
|Visa (in millions)||93||100||113|
*information from Statista.com
The number of Amex cardholders went up 50% from 2000 – 2010 while the number since then has barely gone up 10%. In the 4 years between the Chase Sapphire/Bold/Ink release, Visa has added twice the cardholders than in the decade prior to that. We don’t know how many of those cardholders are specifically Chase, but I’d bet it’s a lot. It was reported by Bloomberg in 2014, according to Phoenix Marketing International, that Chase had more cards in the enviable $125k income group than did Amex. In less than 6 years, Chase was now beating Amex in it’s key demo.
Where was Amex’s focus?
“The fatted calf knows nothing of the knife”
Costco and American Express started their relationship in 1999. So how many of the 15 million new Amex cardholders added, between 2000 and 2014, were from Costco? As of 2015, there were 112 Million total American Express cards in the world. Well the CEO of Amex, Kenneth Chennault, released numbers after the Costco deal with Visa was announced: Costco branded cards represented 10% of that number, or 11.2 Million. The above chart represents cardholders, so one cardholder can have multiple cards, but Amex cardholders went up by 15 million in the same period that 11.2 Million Costco cards were added. That is a staggering dependency on Costco.
In addition to this dependency, According to a Nilson report, Amex customers spend $144 per transaction on average vs their competitors: Visa, $84 and Mastercard $90. Their customers are the most valuable and it’s also where the negotiating leverage allows them to charge the highest transactional fees. If you want to attract the best customers…you’ll have to pay us more in processing fees. But they were losing these customers in droves to Chase.
It seems as though Amex was allowing Chase to steal off their land because the times were so good. Then Costco left.
In the wake of the Costco deal we know that 11.2 million cards are switching from Amex to Visa…some branded specifically to Citi. This alone would be a huge deal, MONSTER deal, but compounded with the fact that Amex is losing it’s key demo to Chase it makes problems even worse. So what was their response?
Amex responds terribly: makes new card sign ups once in a lifetime. WHAT?!?!?!
Starting in 2014, Amex started sneaking in language that limited new cardholder sign up bonuses to once in a lifetime. This was before they lost Costco and they were probably trying to hurt the churners. I’m sure we know a lot of people, especially in the mirror, that would hold an Amex card for a year…drop it and pick it back up 12 months later to earn the sign up bonus again. That’s not the fault of the consumer for taking advantage of terms, if anyone is at fault it’s Amex, they should be pricing their products and bonuses so that they can still make a profit. Whatever the internal reason…the decision limits sign ups in a time when they should be attractively promoting and pricing their products.
BUT THEY RESTRICTED MORE THIS YEAR!
They restricted business cards and ALLLL products to once in a lifetime. The logic here is beyond confounding. It’s like your army is losing soldiers because they want to fight for the opposition and so you’re going to restrict anyone from coming back to fight your fight. What is going on internally at Amex customer acquisition?
Amex is losing this race. Yet they’re enacting rules and restrictions as if the white flag has been waived and they’re laps ahead of the nearest competitor. What they aren’t realizing is that the Chase 5/24 rule helps them attract back the customers they lost. They shouldn’t enforce a stricter policy than that of Chase, they should revert back to their 12 month rule.
Amex can turn it around: The Chase 5/24 Rule is a blessing in disguise
Chase has been gradually degrading some of the benefits of their premium products. First with the 7% dividend and now with the 5/24 rule; Chase cards are less desirable. Maybe I could deal with 5/24 rule if it were specific to cards from Chase, but not across the board. That just seems punitive and honestly a horrible marketing campaign to consumers who once held their product and want to come back, but have applied for several cards.
“Yes, sir you have 750+ credit, spend a lot of money every month, but you also signed up for 5 other cards. No, not from us, from other banks, so we aren’t going to let you spend money with us. And we’re willing to let our competitors earn fees off you” Asinine!
If Chase kept their program open to anyone who qualified based off their income/credit they could bury Amex. They could expand partners, poach more co-brands, and allow highly qualified customers to stock up on Chase cards. If they wanted to restrict churning, they could institute higher minimum spend requirements for those who have had products before, but still let them get the bonus. Why wouldn’t you allow a business owner to earn an Ink Plus 70k sign up bonus if she were willing to charge double the new cardholder minimum spend because she had the card a couple years ago. That seems like a better trade off than just saying no.
As Tom Hall sings, “Greed kills more people than Whiskey”
They’ve opened the door for Amex to swoop in.
Amex can attract customers back from Chase by dropping the once in a lifetime restriction.
Amex was built on the hustle. They were an express delivery business in the 1800s that sought to provide services unavailable elsewhere. They Hustled.
They expanded into the financial services when they realized that the US post office was making money off of Money Orders. So they offered their own money orders and innovated further after the head of the company took a trip to Europe and couldn’t buy anything….he had no european credit. So they developed the American Express Traveler’s Cheque. They Hustled.
Then they got lazy and were almost usurped by Diner’s club.
They rested on the laurels of being a dominate credit facility with traveler’s cheques until the 1950s when Diner’s club launched the very first charge card. They almost faltered and failed to respond thinking that their Cheques were a better product. But wiser minds prevailed and Amex responded with what we now know as the American Express Charge card. If you have one of their charge cards in your wallet then you’re carrying a modern day evolution of that product. They hustled again.
So, Amex – go back to your roots and Hustle.
Chase has prematurely declared victory and it’s annoying a lot of customers who want to get more products, but are limited by their 5/24 rule.
SWOOP IN AMEX! Attack the market by allowing more liberal access to your sign up bonuses.
Remove the restrictions on sign up bonuses. You have incredible brand recognition. People still awe at the Black Card and pulling out an Amex Platinum or Gold card still carries gravitas. Your Centurion lounges are a great response to losing lounge access as a benefit a few years back, and they provide an International lounge product, domestically. Those are all great steps. Now, take advantage of Chase’s restrictive policy by making yours more liberal. If you can attract customers back, and you endure some churning, isn’t that a better business proposition than losing those customers indefinitely?
Restricting bonuses to once in a lifetime disincentives old customers from returning. Maybe their lifestyle has changed and the benefits of a certain card they once had now appeals to them again. Why should they not be rewarded for coming back as a repeat customer when you’re rewarding those who have never had the product. I would say that their history of cardmember spending and payments would be more valuable than the speculative nature of a cardmember that has never had a card.
If you’re concerned with Churners, do as I said above and raise the minimum spend requirements for repeat cardholder sign ups bonuses. There is a breakeven point on spend requirement to justify a 25,50,75 or even 100k bonus. Figure that out and offer repeat bonuses.
Whatever the case, Chase has left the door open with their 5/24 policy.
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